Separate Value and Quantity from Price

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Realize What Others Don’t

Whenever I buy anything that comes in a variety of quantities I am always careful to note the unit price and not merely the overall amount, because sometimes the bigger quantity is cheaper and other times it is not. This post may well be littered with such examples, though it was inspired by reading people discussing subscribing to streaming television/movie services as compared to cable. Many strange ideas come about when talking about ways to get entertainment and a lot of these are confusing different concepts.

The most common idea out there is that, once you subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, SlingTV, et cetera, you are paying as much for it as cable! Perhaps this is true but the number of people subscribing to each of these services all at the same time is measurable in the dozens. For my own example, we canceled cable that was costing us $80/month and continually going up. This was a little above basic, and digital, because it came with NBC Sports and they show a lot of hockey. For the year that costs around $960 plus any other fees. That is a great deal of money to me for watching some television.

We live in a populated enough area that a digital antenna picks up all the locals — one of each flavor, plus PBS and some weird channel that shows old movies and cartoons. This left us with local television but without any national cable news or sports networks, until SlingTV came along. For less than half what cable cost me I am now getting ESPN and a host of other cable channels and also HBO through Sling — which allows me to watch their original programming and the occasional televised boxing. Add in Netflix and I still pay less than I did for cable — though I think this is a foolish factor because I had Netflix well before we canceled cable. Without ponying up extra for a DVR cable television has no ability to time shift and I often watch shows on Netflix if they make it there. (I tend not to watch many ongoing television shows anymore as the quality isn’t there.) Also, HBO would have added around $22 a month to that cable bill for the package they offered (I think).

Amazon Prime isn’t a monthly cost, and it isn’t solely television/movies — I had it for years before their video service was available because the free, two-day shipping pays off. Items can often be had from Amazon for less than the cost and time investment in getting them at a store — especially if it’s something kind of odd, like gaming dice. Cables of all sorts for electronics are cheaper, and having guaranteed two-day delivery makes ordering it much more palatable. (HDMI cables are a racket.) Unless a person gets prime solely for the video content then adding it into the equation is silly, too.

Still less than I spent on cable, though.

Another argument is, once people are buying fewer channels or ala carte, they are going to be paying more for less. Well, perhaps. There are a lot of networks out there making money simply because they are included in the package. You may not see it on your bill every month but just subscribing to cable is guaranteed income toward each media empire that your provider offers. I don’t need 500 channels — quantity there is not value. It may be cheap but it is also useless.

Imagine if Amazon said tomorrow they were going to raise all item prices by one dollar but every item came with a free piece of black liquorice. Aside from liquorice fans that also happen to be bad at math nobody would be pleased by this because that adds absolutely nothing to the value of their item.

SlingTV keeps adding channels to their base lineup and not raising the price. While this is great, I would love the ability to eject a few that I do not ever watch for a slightly lower bill. Even a dime a channel would be worth it in the long run.

Sometimes Amazon is guilty of the quantity versus value problem as well — I was going to order some soap or other item and it came in a set of packs. I can’t remember exactly what it was other than a non-expiring household… thing. It came in either a single “pack” for something like $6-8. But a triple pack cost around $40. Some people must order in that quantity for that to ever fly, but my immediate thought was, “Well, if I ever need three of these, I’ll order them a week apart.”

Earlier, I mentioned the time investment in finding an item. It is measurably faster for me to click a button on a website than it is for me to drive to a store, find it (if they have it), and drive home. Unless I literally could not proceed without the item waiting two days saves me a *time* investment. Because while the amount of money I make is only limited by my own abilities and work ethic, the amount of time I have will eventually run down no matter what I do. The less of that time I spend in line at a store the better.

There is a hidden cost to those 500 channels that relates to the time spent with them. If a person feels it is worth it to buy the ultra top premium cable package that person is likely going to spend more time in front of their television than I do. While that is a perfectly acceptable decision for a person to make with their life I do not think many of us will think during our last moments, “Well, I watched a whole lot of commercials.”

(Of course, television is not the only way to waste time, and there’s nothing wrong with down time… it just strikes me as unhealthy to live for that down time and spend a majority of ones non-working life in front of a television. But that is another post.)

The point is, just because something is cheaper, or comes in a larger bulk, does not mean that it is necessarily more valuable. Sometimes spending a little more money is worth it.